When all else fails, bring up the Klan

Not content with labeling religious-liberty advocates as tantamount to homophobes and child abusers, Georgia Equality now says they would aid and abet the Ku Klux Klan. In the South, especially, hardly any accusation is more severe.

In this case, it is also absurd.

Bowers

The accusation came on the letterhead of Michael Bowers, the former state attorney general hired by Georgia Equality to issue an opinion on the bill. It was billed as news that the man who once defended Georgia’s sodomy law had flipped sides, but wouldn’t the surprise have been if he’d contradicted his client?

Either way, Bowers’ letter outlining his opinion is a dog’s breakfast of mismatched legal references in search of a coherent theory, spiced with a few hyperbolic claims in search of headlines.

Bowers’ letter manages both to state the legal test the bill would establish — that government actions which violate a person’s free exercise of religion must serve a “compelling government interest” via the “least restrictive means” — and to imply the bill offers a get-out-of-jail-free card to anyone claiming religion as a defense anytime. He both acknowledges the language of the bill is “virtually identical” to that of a 22-year-old federal law and claims the effects of such language in Georgia are unknowable.

He both waxes eloquently about the rule of law and ignores that the bill establishes a clear legal test for courts of law to use in settling free-exercise disputes. He both warns the bill could be used to justify parents’ refusal to vaccinate their children and fails to observe the state’s vaccination law has long included a religious exemption.

Most notably, and like other critics before him, Bowers both raises the prospect of rampant discrimination and fails to offer a single example of discrimination upheld by a court since the bill’s language was adopted by the federal government and a majority of states. Perhaps that’s why he resorted to wild-eyed speculation about the Klan.

“(I)t is no exaggeration that the proposed (bill) could be used to justify putting hoods back on the Ku Klux Klan,” Bowers writes, citing the state Anti-Mask Act that effectively outlawed the hoods.

In fact, in 1990 the Georgia Supreme Court upheld the Anti-Mask Act as serving a “compelling state interest” via a “de minimis” restriction on a Klansman’s freedom of expression. Bowers ought to remember that one; he was attorney general when that case was argued.

By definition, nothing can be less restrictive than that which is “de minimis.” It is ridiculous to think the law would be thrown out in a free-exercise case when essentially the same standard was met in a free-expression case.

But harping on the legal arguments, such as they are, takes away from the real problem with raising the specter of hooded terrorists returning to Georgia. It is plainly an attempt to shut down debate altogether.

Not every critic of the bill has been so implacable. And maybe Bowers doesn’t care what legislators think of him. After all, a good lawyer simply advocates his client’s position.

But legislators should remember who his client was when deciding which advocacy groups they can work with in the future.

Reader Comments 0

94 comments
CherokeeCounty
CherokeeCounty

So your argument, rephrased, is that since it hasn't happened anywhere else, it won't happen here?  Kind of a weak argument, imho.

I wonder if you and the SBC will be so quick to support the law when a Muslim woman uses it to insist on wearing her burqa into a courthouse? 

GaGirl53171875
GaGirl53171875

Why is it that Wingfield's comments are delayed, but Bookman's are not? I guess the AJC doesn't mind liberal-bashers and must protect their RWNJ's.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@GaGirl53171875 I moderate my comments to keep the discussion relatively clean and focused on the subject at hand. It was my decision, and I do all the work to enforce it ... and am very pleased with the results.

GaGirl53171875
GaGirl53171875

Folks need to keep their religion out of government. Your religion is your business. If you can't participate in American life because of your religion, move to another country.

RoswellDickie
RoswellDickie

As I am not a muslim could a muslim deny me service or deny wanting to serve me since i am not a "believer" as his religious faith defines it- should this law pass? Could a jewish person refuse to be in my presence if I handle pork? 


This law has nothing to do with defending religious liberty.


As for my religious liberty; I have total confidence that G-d and Jesus can defend himself.


jaysbehind
jaysbehind

Figures... the "you people" crowd stoops to the bowels of human perversion on just about any occasion nowadays. They are a pathetic lot....

Jack_®
Jack_®

Bowers has had his day in the political sun. He needs to fade away.

jaysbehind
jaysbehind

@JamVet Yes they are still an important wing of the dem/lib party. They were of course founded on those principles...


You people...

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

I think you nailed it with this one, Kyle:

Either way, Bowers’ letter outlining his opinion is a dog’s breakfast of mismatched legal references in search of a coherent theory, spiced with a few hyperbolic claims in search of headlines.

"A Man for All Seasons"? Really!!??!!

Is there any chance this guy is suffering from dementia? It's a serious question. 

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

You didn't get invited to CPAC Kyle ?


Your missing the show 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar Actually, I'm in New Orleans on a trip looking into the Recovery School District that Gov. Deal wants Georgia to adopt.


GaGirl53171875
GaGirl53171875

@Kyle_Wingfield @HarryCrews  No need to go to New Orleans to find out that the Charter school movement is a dog's breakfast of corruption and shirking of public responsibility for financing public education for everyone.


HarryCrews
HarryCrews

@Kyle_Wingfield

Mr. Wingfield:

Did the AJC send any reporters to actually cover the trip - if it is indeed newsworthy - or only the paper's GOP rah-rah section? Can we look forward to any factual reporting of the successes and failures of the NOLA Recovery School Districts or more press fodder from the "home team?"

Did the AJC send Bookman too? Was he invited by the governor's office to travel with them as well?

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

"After all, a good lawyer simply advocates his client’s position."

That. No need to overthink this, or feel regret that Mike Bowers might have "flipped" from his earlier stance as AG. He is simply a private practice attorney representing a client for a fee. It's what lawyers do.

TomGaff
TomGaff

@Bumper15 What do you call two lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? A good start!! Lawyers are all about the money, they could care less about guilt or innocent. Next to politicians, they are next at the bottom of society's barrel!

Caius
Caius

As I see it, this is much ado about little of substance.  Regardless of state laws dictating state court levels of scrutiny they must pass the standard of "nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

This law is similar to many laws on the books and they have not resulted in abuse because of the constitutional standard.  In the end Federal Courts hold all the trump cards.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

"the bill establishes a clear legal test for courts of law to use in settling free-exercise disputes."- Kyle


Can anyone name the last 5 legal tests in settling free-exercise disputes in Georgia?  You know, ones that would have been impacted this bill? 


Anyone? 

MHSmith
MHSmith

Perhaps one day the Supreme Court will  find as Justice Black once came very close to it, if not in fact acknowledged it to a degree in one case, as did another lower court in  another case in Oregon did cite "Secular Humanism"  as a religion - as I believe that it is. 


If "Secular Humanism" or "Humanism" per' se is ever found by the High Court to be a "Religion" the gig is up.



Pandora's Box awaits opening.  

MHSmith
MHSmith

You are a smart man Kyle. Silence is truly golden.

straker
straker

Kyle - "you ignore everything I write"


When didyou write about this federal law?

WilJohnson
WilJohnson

Let's put aside both Bower's and Wingfield's hyperbole.  New religious freedom laws, in spite of the 1993 Freedom of Religion Restoration Act and the 22 existing state versions, are popping up and being challenged everywhere.

Arizona's new law (passed by their legislature and not that much different from Georgia's) was finally vetoed by their governor after serious pressure from business interests, including the NFL.

Georgia's law is a reaction to cases involving gays being denied services like wedding cakes and photography by Christians. It's amplified here in Georgia by a police chief's book controversy. I personally don't like knee jerk, non-specific laws when we have proven Federal law in place.


Bower's comments amplified the debate rather than shutting it down.. It sure got Winfield to get his pen out so he can continue to dance around this bill as he has done in previous columns. If the Georgia legislature and Wingfield want Georgia bakers and wedding photographers to be able to refuse to bake gay cakes and take gay photos then say so. Quit beating around the bush.





WilJohnson
WilJohnson

@Kyle_Wingfield @WilJohnson Working on a knee-jerk bill for a year doesn't make that bill any more legitimate.  This bill is unnecessary because we have strong Federal law to protect us from discrimination. The Supreme Court refused to hear Elane. Bad law in New Mexico or Arizona doesn't mean Georgia should waste time on more bad law which can not stand up in court.


Give me one specific legal reason why you believe this is good law.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@WilJohnson Nothing knee-jerk about a bill that has been worked on for more than a year, and I disagree as well that it's unnecessary.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@WilJohnson "Arizona's new law (passed by their legislature and not that much different from Georgia's) was finally vetoed by their governor after serious pressure from business interests, including the NFL."

Arizona's bill last year was substantially different from Georgia's bill this year. In fact, Arizona already has a law of the type Georgia would create via this bill. The Arizona bill went much further, not that that has stopped those who want to stop it at all costs -- or simply don't know what they're talking about -- from making the comparison.

As for the bakers and photographers: As I have pointed out many, many times here, this type of law exists in New Mexico and was deemed not a sufficient reason to deny services for a same-sex wedding in the well-known Elane Photography case. One more way in which critics of this bill like you simply don't know the facts.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@WilJohnson

It's unfortunate that this bill doesn't go so far as to allow artists to refuse to perform at ceremonies that offend their religious beliefs.  That would be real freedom.  Liberal fascists relish any opportunity to stick it to people of faith and force their beliefs on others.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@WilJohnson Because I think there should be a clear test -- and strict scrutiny seems like a good one -- for the courts to use when weighing free-exercise claims against other rights/interests.

And btw, the federal law in this instance doesn't affect state cases because of the U.S. Supreme Court's 1997 Boerne ruling.

CardiganBoy
CardiganBoy

@Kyle_Wingfield @WilJohnson


Wingfield and Johnson - appreciate the calm and reasoned discussion.  No name calling- nobody's character was impugned.  What a novel idea!

Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

The christians need religious liberty protection because christianity is such a minor/minority religion in the US.


Dontcha know?

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Captain-Obvious Its far more amazing how an organization of hundreds of millions would think they are the ones being persecuted and that they somehow need legislation to protect the majority.


Especially coming from a group that so readily pushes its beliefs on others. Exactly what the Founding Fathers were trying to protect us from.


They had faced similar ala the Church of England and wanted NO state religion. 

Tiberius-Constitutionus
Tiberius-Constitutionus

Things must be really, really good in this country when you have to keep bringing this idiotic bill up.  Seriously, there aren't any matters of greater import worth discussing at present? 

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Tiberius-Constitutionus I guess we should be thankful of that


They could be spinning their wheels on phony scandals like Benghazi or the IRS ( How did those work out ? )


Or worse getting us back in a war in the middle East


The most harm they can do here is take away women's reproductive rights because of "religious liberty" or something like that. Where you get a different set of rules for Hobby Lobby etc.


That isn't good either but not as bad as the other BS

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Tiberius-Constitutionus You mean like the transportation, education and tax bills I've written about recently and which you haven't commented on?

Don't ignore the other things I write, and then come on here complaining that I'm not writing about "any matters of greater import."

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Kyle_Wingfield @Tiberius-Constitutionus Oh i've commented on the education and tax bills.


I made the comment the Tax bill looks like it was written basically by the Americans for Prosperity ( Koch Brothers ) group which I don't doubt that it was. It shifts more tax burden from Rich to Poor as Jay bookman clearly demonstrates. 


I have no doubt the same buffoons that have run this once proud state into the ground will screw up transportation as well. 



straker
straker

Kyle - "federal version of the law"


I'm not familiar with that.


Is it similar to the state ones?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@straker Virtually identical, as Bowers acknowledged.
But, once again, if you're "not familiar with" that law, it's because you ignore everything I write that doesn't suit your own biases. Of course, that hardly makes you unique around here.